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Buckland planners listen  

Credit:  By Ellen Eller, Shelburne Falls & West County Independent, 20 April 2012 ~~

BUCKLAND – More than two-dozen residents attended a Planning Board hearing April 18 to discuss proposed moratoriums on large-scale wind and solar power-generating facilities in town.

As Board Chair John Gould explained, current bylaws allow wind and solar installations for personal use in certain districts with a special permit issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). But there are no standards for larger, industrial-scale wind farms or solar arrays to guide the ZBA.

As such, two separate moratoriums will be presented as warrant articles at this year’s May 9 annual town meeting.’

One article, put forth by the Planning Board, asks voters to amend current zoning bylaws to add a temporary moratorium against issuing any permit for the construction of a wind energy generating facility for one year, until the 2013 annual meeting.

The purpose of the moratorium “is to allow sufficient time to engage in a planning process to address the effects of such structures and uses in the town and to enact bylaws in a manner consistent with sound land use planning goals and objectives, or take any action related thereto.”

Another article, submitted by citizens’ petition, requests that “no building permit may be issued for the construction of any large-scale photovoltaic system in size of more than 150 percent of the documented average annual use of a residential, commercial, business, municipal or agricultural application, and not to exceed 35 kilowatts.”

This moratorium would also be adopted for one year.

Although there was minimal discussion about the wind moratorium, the figures given in the solar petition – based on research done in Heath and Colrain – raised questions, mostly among residents who live in the rural residential district and felt they could easily site large solar arrays on their properties without impacting neighbors. It was suggestedthat those figures be discussed with petitioners before town meeting to avoid problems that night.

Someone asked what happens if voters do not approve either or both moratoriums. Gould responded that the existing bylaws would apply, leaving decisions up to the ZBA. But passage of the moratoriums would givethe town “breathing space” to come up with new bylaws to clearly define and distinguish domestic solar and wind from industrial installations, as well as standards and guidelines for construction.

“If you attended any of the meetings in Shelburne,” Gould said, “… they were pretty much caught flat-footed … having to scramble. I don’t want to be in that position.”

It is the responsibility of town boards to do what’s asked of them, but it’s also up to citizens to be informed and involved, he said – earning spontaneous applause from listeners.

“This is not about how to exclude solar and wind in town, it’s not ‘how can we keep his out of here?'” Gould said. “It’s about having a reasonable set of standards for our community.”

Source:  By Ellen Eller, Shelburne Falls & West County Independent, 20 April 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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